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08 May 2012

Serving God and people through business

Serving God and people through business

by Mats Tunehag, senior associate on business as mission for both the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission

Did Christopher Columbus discover America? Not really. The Vikings were there many centuries earlier. So one may say that Columbus re-discovered America.

Business as Mission (BAM) is not a new discovery – it is a rediscovery of biblical truths and practices. In one sense it is like the Reformation and its rallying cry: ad fontes – back to the sources. The term BAM is new but the underpinning concept is nothing new. During the Reformation old truths were highlighted and contemporary assumptions were challenged. This is what the global BAM movement is doing today. We are revisiting scripture, questioning jargon and traditions, and assessing the situation in the world. The Bible portrays a businesswoman as a godly role model of how to serve others and meet needs through business. Let’s briefly look at Proverbs 31 and translate a few verses into modern day language:

16 She considers a field and buys it;
She does a market assessment and invests
Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She makes a profit and reinvests
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
She keeps books and manages cash flow

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
She is involved in manufacturing and retail
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She has set up a supply chain

20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
She uses part of profit for charitable work

15 she provides food for her family
She is the breadwinner of the family
and portions for her servant girls.
And provides employment

31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her
praise at the city gate.
Her work in business should be recognised
and is certainly commendable

Many evangelical Christians put an emphasis on the Great Commission, but often make a great omission. This is only one of three mandates we have. The first is the creation mandate: we are to be creative and create good things, for ourselves and others, being good stewards of all things entrusted to us – even in the physical arena. This of course includes being creative in business – to create wealth. Many Christians limit their thinking to wealth distribution, but there is no wealth to distribute unless it has been created. Wealth creation is a godly talent: “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)

The second mandate is the great commandment which includes loving your neighbour. In the first and second mandates you find a basis for what modern day economists call CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. It is about creating wealth and producing products and services in ways which considers ‘your neighbour’.

CSR recognises the importance of serving several constituencies through business – not just the owners, but also staff, suppliers, clients, community and the physical environment. CSR includes three bottom lines and looks at the impact businesses have economically, socially and environmentally for the various stakeholders.

BAM also recognises the importance of the triple bottom line as it is based on the God-given mandates about being a creative steward and serving people. But BAM goes beyond this, to CSR+, as we include the third mandate – the Great Commission. We are to glorify God and make Christ known among all peoples. This is the fourth bottom line. Thus BAM has a global and missional perspective as well. BAM is CSR+ where the + can also be seen as
a cross – putting everything under the Lordship of Christ.

We invite Christians everywhere to be a part of this re-discovery journey, which is an ongoing learning process on biblical views on work and business, but also taking a fresh look at our own legacy; like the Quakers who had a great holistic impact through business and had the motto “spiritual and solvent”. In the words of the Business as Mission Manifesto: “We call upon the Church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world – among all peoples and to the ends of the earth. We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their gifts and experience might be used to help meet the world’s most pressing spiritual and physical needs through Business as Mission.”

The global BAM movement is right now in an intense re-discovery process, through the 2nd Global Think Tank on Business as Mission. To learn more and possibly become involved, please see bamthinktank.org and matstunehag.com

The Alliance recently held a Business as Mission conference, bringing together entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss building the kingdom. For more information on Business as Mission, read Building the Kingdom Through Business, by Bridget Adams & Manoj Raithatha, available at instantapostle.com

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